Archive for May, 2011

I am reading Jodi Picoult’s book, The Tenth Circle, for my book club. I did not know that this was a book about teen rape when we decided to read this book. If I had, I would have voted to read another book this month. I am slammed with my new job and won’t come up for air until June 2, so this is not the best timing for reading a book about rape.

Nevertheless, I am reading it while I work out at the gym in the early mornings, and I am enjoying it despite its serious content. The book delves into the many facets of teen rape. You have a 14-year-old girl who was dating a 17-year-old boy with her parents’ consent (which I, personally, cannot imagine supporting as a parent). He broke up with her. This was her first crush, and she is having a hard time getting over him, so she follows her best friend’s stupid advice to make him jealous by engaging in dangerous behaviors.

In a nutshell, the 14-year-old girl attends a sex party at her friend’s house (where the ex-boyfriend is invited). They are playing the “Rainbow Game” – a game I had never heard of but will now be preventing my son from going to any unsupervised parties!! – where each girl wears a different colored lipstick and performs oral sex on different boys. The boy sporting the most colors on his “rainbow” wins the game. Yuck!

Anyhow, the girl participates in the “game” one time and then throws up. After everyone else leaves, it is just her, the 14-year-old friend, the ex-boyfriend, and another 17-year-old boy. The girl is wearing a sheer shirt, low-rise jeans with no underwear, and plays strip poker with the boys. The other couple goes upstairs. One thing leads to another. The girl just wants to kiss and make out (“second base”) with her ex-boyfriend. He interprets all of the above as consent to sex and rapes her. The rest of the book (or at least as far as I have read) explores the many facets of this scenario – sadly one that happens frequently at teen parties and on college campuses.

The 14-year-old girl never said yes to sex and was a virgin. Her reaction to the sexual contact is the same as other rape victims – deep shame, feeling dirty, dressing in baggy clothing, insomnia, etc. There is no question that her reaction is of one a rape victim.

The 17-year-old boy was at a sex party where all of the girls (including the 14-year-old girl) were providing all of the boys with oral sex. She was in a sheer blouse with no underwear, kissing him, and taking off her bra for him. Both had also been drinking. From his perspective, all was consensual. His reaction is dumbfounded.

How can the same act be absolutely devastating to one party and viewed as completely consensual by the other? I was in a similar situation with an ex-boyfriend in college (minus the sex party – we were alone in his dorm room talking about whether we could work things out). He took things farther than I wanted. I dissociated. He performed intercourse on my body – something I did not want, did not ask for, and had repeatedly told him that I was not ready for because I believed I was a virgin. He saw it as consensual. I gained 30 lbs and experienced numerous trauma aftereffects. I was terrified of him and was never alone with him again. He expressed befuddlement at my “rejection” since we had finally “consummated” our relationship.

How can the same act between the two parties involved be so different? How could he truly believe that sex was consensual when her reaction was with trauma?

Photo credit: Amazon.com


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On my blog entry entitled “I Don’t Know If I Have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)”, a reader posted the following comment:

Faith, I was wondering if you could do a post about night terrors. Like when u wake up soaked in sweet and thinking its real. You stuck in the past. The cry. The heavy crying. And ‘body memories’ like if u wake up and you feel pain of someone hurting you? But its in your head. And not happening but u think it is. I hope I totally don’t sounds loopy. I’m being serious this happens to. And the feelings feel real and The feelings associated or direct me to a post if uve already done one? ~ Freckles

What Freckles is describing is dual consciousness. On the one hand, a part of you knows that you are lying safely in your bed while another part of yourself feels like you have been teleported back in time and are currently being abused.

I recently had a nightmare where I was being raped again. I could feel everything that I felt when I was raped as a child. It really did feel like I was being raped again in that moment even though I was safely asleep in my bed. As Freckles describes, I awoke feeling as if my body had just been raped even though I was reliving a memory that happened decades ago.

I have heard that some child abuse survivors can become so caught up in the reality of the past that they lose touch with the present during the flashback. When a loved one steps in to try to help, they lash out against the loved one, believing that the loved one is the abuser. I, personally, have not had this experience. I have been fortunate to stay grounded enough in the present to avoid “losing myself” to total immersion in the past while I am awake. Flashbacks in nightmares are a different story – When I experience those, I am only aware of the past, not the present.

Here’s the good news: You can use this dual consciousness to your advantage! As long as a part of yourself is aware of being in the present, you can use that part of yourself to comfort yourself through the flashback. I learned how to pause, rewind, and fast-forward a flashback.

I also learned how to talk my way through the flashbacks. Even though a part of myself was experiencing the abuse as if it was happening right now, another part of myself would walk me through it. I would tell myself that I already survived the abuse, so I could survive the memory. I would tell myself that I am OK, that I am safe now, and that it is OK to remember what happened. I would tell myself that I already know the ending – that I survived and am OK today. I would sometimes even play a song in my head to help ease the anxiety as I worked through the memory.

As for stopping the flashback … some of my flashbacks were too intense to deal with all in one sitting. As long as I promised myself that I would return the next night (and meant it), I developed the ability to “turn off” the flashback for the night once I had enough. I would process what I had relived that night and then be in a better place to move forward the following night.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Issues with Body Image after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

It must be hard to have more than one part who is not happy with your body. That is something I would have never considered till you described it. I have enough trouble with just a single part that is frustrated with my body.

Could you speak to how you got these parts to be more accepting of your physicality and how you got to the place where you could be more in control and integrated in a physical sense? Does that question make sense? ~Mia

From the perspective of a multiple, I do have parts that reject my body. Sometimes I will experience a child alter part that views my adult thighs as fat because that part still feels like it lives in the body of a skinny little girl. The physical difference between a woman’s body and a little girl’s body is jarring to that part of myself.

However, you don’t have to have dissociative identity disorder (DID) to reject or hate your body. Many child abuse survivors who never “split” hate or reject their bodies for a number of reasons. Some reject their bodies because their abusers harmed their bodies, which in turn led to harming the child emotionally. Others hate their bodies because they physically resemble an abusive family member’s body. Many child abuse survivors find that they can harm their bodies as a way of managing their emotions, such as cutting their pain into their bodies instead of feeling it, “stuffing down” emotions through binge eating instead of feeling them, etc.

As for how to move past this, it all comes from self-love and self-acceptance. Whether you are a multiple or “singleton,” all of your parts are “you,” so you can choose to love your body today just as you have chosen to reject your body in the past. I am not saying that this is easy — nothing about healing from child abuse is easy – but you really can “choose” your way toward loving and accepting your body.

The first step is to stop putting energy into hating your body. If you have been thinking negative thoughts about your body every day for decades, you are not going to be able to snap your fingers and simply love your body in an instant. Before you can turn the ship around, you have to start changing course.

You do this by choosing to stop beating yourself up. Whenever you feel tempted to think, “I’m fat,” or “I’m ugly,” replace that negative thought with something positive or, if you cannot do that, at least with a different thought, such as, “I wonder if the Braves won the game today.”

As you stop fueling your negative thoughts about your body (stop feeding the evil wolf), you can start throwing some morsels to your good wolf. Look for things to like about your body – your eye or hair color, etc. I now marvel that my body could endure so much punishment – first from my abusers and then from me through an eating disorder and self-injury – and still be in as good of shape as it is. Keep feeding that good wolf, and you will gradually begin to love and accept your body.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Not Recognizing Self in Mirror after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

It’s amazing to me how our culture and “the law” view abuse and how it is handled as opposed to the reality of it. It’s almost as though as a society we treat it like, it’s wrong, but not THAT bad. Put the abuser in jail for a few months, maybe and that’s the end of it… the child will forget and be just fine. End of story. It’s like it just never ends, right down to the fact that a lot of society just keeps on victimizing the victim and the perpetrators get a slap on the wrist.

I’m not sure this has anything to do with looking in the mirror, but it just hits me sometimes how EVERY facet of a persons life gets effected by abuse. The simplest tasks can require Herculean effort to maintain…. and it goes on and on, it doesn’t just stop one day. And for this a person may have to spend a little time in jail. It’s just so unfair and frustrating. ~ Mia

This comment really struck a nerve because it came on the heels of someone offline making a comment about a child being “molested.” I really, really hate the term “molest” because it means “to bother, interfere with, or annoy” ~ Dictionary.com. As Mia so eloquently stated, what I experienced at the hands of my abusers was so much more than “being bothered.” I can get over “being bothered.” “Being bothered” does not cause me to have ongoing insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, and recurring triggers.

Also, as Mia pointed out, society has this ridiculous idea that children simply “get over” trauma. It is just coincidence that their lives explode after puberty with drug addictions, promiscuity, self-injury, eating disorders, etc. Those behaviors are viewed as separate, unrelated issues from the childhood trauma because “children are resilient.” I don’t remember where I heard this line (I think it was in a movie), but I think it is so true: “If children are so resilient, then why are there so many f@#$ed up adults?”

Have you ever noticed that only an adult (and typically only an adult woman) is referred to as “being raped?” If it is a child, s/he was “molested,” and s/he will get over it because “children are resilient.” People view an adult woman getting raped one time as being a traumatizing experience, but a child being raped 100 times is only “molestation” that the child will “get over.” WTF??

Call me jaded, but I think one reason for this shift in perception is because adult women can vote and children cannot. So, we have to take an adult voter’s experiences more seriously than a child’s experiences. Also, if we delude ourselves into believing that children are “resilient” and simply “get over” whatever happens to them, it absolves the adults from responsibility for protecting the children. Whatever the reason, it really makes me angry.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Issues with Body Image after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following question:

The mirror thing, that happens to me often too; it started around 2 years ago, which I think is around the time I started remembering abuse. I was always scared when I woke up and looked in the mirror, and didn’t know who was looking back at me. Is this (not recognizing yourself sometimes in the mirror) a common thing with child abuse survivors, anbody? ~ Janet

It is common for survivors of child abuse to struggle with looking in the mirror. There are many different reasons and many different reactions.

For example, a woman abused by her mother or a man abused by his father often struggles with looking in the mirror because, instead of seeing their own reflection, they see their abuser looking back at them. This is particularly a problem for any child abuse survivor who objectively physically resembles the abuser. I am grateful that I resemble my father’s side of the family since my mother was the abuser. However, as I get older, I physically resemble my paternal grandmother more and more, which is jarring. I will sometimes see her in the mirror instead of myself.

Also, anyone with dissociative identity disorder (DID) or other dissociative states can be taken aback when a child part looks in the mirror and sees an adult woman or man looking back in the reflection. Because that part of yourself is still “stuck” at age 6 or whatever, seeing an adult face in the mirror can be very disconcerting.

Another issue I have with looking in the mirror is when I can read the emotions in my eyes. I am quite skilled at “masking” my emotions from having to do it throughout my childhood. I remember when my mother-in-law really hurt me, and I could feel the “ice” breaking inside of my head and heart. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and was startled by the raw pain reflected in the glass. I reacted in anger, forcing myself to look into those wounded eyes and remember why I can never, never, never trust a mother figure again.

I have friends who are also child abuse survivors who simply cannot look in a mirror. They own small mirrors so they can view one part of their faces at a time for applying makeup, but they never, ever look into a full mirror. One friend won’t even sit at a table near a mirror at a restaurant because she is so freaked out by her reflection. They have the same reactions to having their pictures taken.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled So F@#$ing Angry at Mother/Abuser, a reader asked me the following question:

I have to ask, Faith, as this is honestly that only got my mother, one of my sexual abusers as well, to leave me the EFF alone as well…

when you have written her, have you given her specific details of your memories? Have you ever directly called her what she is and relayed memories back to her? For me/us (me and my insiders) doing this pulled the covers back off our mother in such a way that she was so ashamed she never even tried to refute it–

She tried getting family members to contact me, but i continued sending her the same letter, and adding new memories to it. Guess what? In our case, the truth, the UGLY, BLUNT, DIRECT, no longer beating around the bush truth let us free. ~ Journal of Healing

The short answer is no.

When I was in therapy, my therapist and I discussed whether or not I should confront her. His advice was that, due to her mental illness (he strongly believes she has schizophrenia, and I agree – She has never sought a diagnosis because she thinks “hearing G*d’s voice” audibly is “normal”), a confrontation is not going to meet any of the needs I would hope to get out of it. He believes she truly does not consciously remember the abuse and, if confronted with it, the truth could cause her to have a psychotic breakdown.

When deciding whether or not to confront an abuser, I think the child abuse survivor needs to put some thought into what you hope to get out of the confrontation and then objectively determine whether that outcome is likely. If it is not, I don’t see the point of putting myself through the emotions of a confrontation when what I hope to gain from it won’t happen.

I have no desire to have her “get crazier.” I also have no desire to put more of a burden on my sister, who as the only child still in contact with our mother/abuser feels responsible for picking up the pieces. My sister would be the one dealing with the psychotic woman, and I don’t want to do that to my sister.

And then, at the end of the day, what would I have gained from setting off the chain of events to cause this much damage? Very little. I don’t see my mother taking responsibility and apologizing – I see her falling deeper into her insanity, which could cause her to continue to send me letters but of a more insane variety. If she has a psychotic break, she will become even more unpredictable, as she did when my father passed away suddenly in high school.

I see too many negatives and too few positives coming out of a confrontation, which is why I don’t do it. Thanks for asking the question, though. I periodically have to remind myself why I have made this choice. I still think it is the best choice in my situation.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I have had several hints over the past few months that I have more healing work ahead of me. Last night’s cluster of dreams was like a flashing neon sign that more work is to come.

I was at my child’s school (although the building looked nothing like my son’s school), and it was beautiful. The colors around it were vivid – lots of bright green grass on the grounds and a beautiful, mossy roof on the building. I walked up to my husband, who was standing outside the school on the grounds, and then my friend walked up. (My friend has the same name as my sister and always represents my sister in my dreams.)

I got nervous when my friend walked up because I was worried she would “tell” my husband, but I couldn’t identify exactly what it was I didn’t want her to tell. Instead, she and I climbed up a long ladder with many parts onto the mossy roof of the school. There I found a girl in her teens who was battered and bruised. She really wanted to go inside the school but couldn’t. So, she lived on the roof and tried to be as close to the school as she could.

There were people in the school who knew she was living on the roof (even though the ones in charge did not know). They would make sure she was OK and even educate her.

Then, I saw my son (always represents my inner child) and a bunch of other children having fun outside on the grounds. They were dressed like boy scouts and seemed to be preparing for a field trip or some sort of fun.

We went inside, and I was sitting next to a different friend as an older child showed me a “cool toy” that simulated giving oral sex to a man. I was bothered by this because the child thought it was great fun, but I could see the sexual nature of the toy. Then, my son picked up another toy like that and was playing with it, too, and I was upset by that. Then, I looked down, and all of the objects on the table were representative of penises.

Next, a small dog came running out, and I knew I had to leave the room. (Seeing my dog killed was one of my two most traumatizing memories. I suspect the “little dog” represents an extremely traumatizing memory that is not quite as bad as that one but still difficult enough to qualify as a “dog-level” of trauma.) I closed the door behind me, but the dog got out. The door caught the fur at the tip of his tail, but he was still able to get free.

Then, I ran into another child who said that all of the balls at the school were the same, so he made his own ball. He had taken two balls and packaged them together. The result was the “skin” of a volley ball stretched across two full balls inside of the one. I looked inside, and the small dog was encapsulated inside of one of the inside balls and was both frightened and angry. I knew the dog needed to be let out of the ball.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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